Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Is this the end of seniority in Los Angeles public schools?

Not quite. Rapturous headlines are claiming that the system of seniority is as good as dead in the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of our nation’s most disastrous school systems. Writes the LA Times:

The Los Angeles Board of Education approved Tuesday what would be a landmark court settlement that radically limits the traditional practice of laying off teachers strictly on the basis of seniority. The agreement would cap the number of those dismissals at virtually all schools in the nation’s second-largest district.

Hey, that’s great! What are the details?

The agreement does not scrap seniority as a factor in layoffs. Rather, layoffs based on seniority would be distributed evenly among district schools. No school would lose a disproportionate number of instructors.

This marks a significant change because inexperienced teachers tend to be clustered in schools in low-income neighborhoods, putting those campuses at a disadvantage during every budget crisis. [My emphasis]

Oh. So this “landmark court settlement” doesn’t really get rid of tenure at all. It just spreads layoffs around the district more evenly. Well, at least now maybe they can get rid of teachers based on how well they perform, right?

Like virtually every other district in the state, L.A. Unified does not consider job performance in layoff decisions.

Huh. The bottom line is this:

Under the plan, teachers with fewer than two years’ experience would still be vulnerable. On the other hand, veteran teachers at some campuses could be laid off even as younger teachers at other schools are spared.

I really fail to see how this is some sort of landmark triumph against the evil of seniority. On the one hand it’s good that a successful, young teacher at one school might get saved because an older teacher is laid off elsewhere. But what about the less-young, still-successful teachers at these other, better schools who are still lacking in seniority? Why should they be sacrificed just because their less-successful colleague has more years within the district?

I suppose this is an improvement upon the current regime, which is just a joke. But is this really a great success? We need to get rid of seniority entirely: Workers don’t deserve to hold on to their job just because they’ve managed to keep breathing for decades.

Categories: Center for Union FactsTeachers Unions